Apple casing supplier may be developing lightweight frame for rumored AR wearable

Tim Cook may have recently poured cold water on rumors that Apple was on the verge of announcing its own version of Google Glass, but that isn’t stopping the supply chain from pushing the rumors forward. Nikkei reports that Apple casing supplier Catcher Technology may be developing lightweight frames for Apple AR glasses.

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“Based on what we have learned, [new AR products] need to look good and be light enough to wear … that makes the casings for such device very complicated to manufacture and there are still a lot of challenges to overcome currently,” Catcher Chairman Allen Horng told analysts and reporters in an earnings conference on Tuesday.

While Catcher didn’t name Apple, analysts believe Apple may be its customer for the good-looking, lightweight augmented reality product. Earlier this year a prototype version of Apple’s AR glasses was likely referenced in an accident report publicly distributed by mistake, but Tim Cook described the technology needed for a shipping product as not there yet as recently as last month:

“But today I can tell you the technology itself doesn’t exist to do that in a quality way. The display technology required, as well as putting enough stuff around your face – there’s huge challenges with that.

“The field of view, the quality of the display itself, it’s not there yet,” he says. And as with all of its products, Apple will only ship something if it feels it can do it “in a quality way”.

“We don’t give a rat’s about being first, we want to be the best, and give people a great experience,” he says. “But now anything you would se on the market any time soon would not be something any of us would be satisfied with. Nor do I think the vast majority of people would be satisfied.”

Still, Cook has hyped the potential for augmented reality as a tool to anyone who will listen even before the recent launch of Apple’s ARKit which creates augmented reality experiences in iPhone and iPad apps. Porting those experiences to wearable glasses may ultimately be more natural if provided in the proper form factor. Snapchat seemed to have aced the casual design aspect, but without providing enough utility through the tech which has resulted in reports of hundreds of thousands of unsold Spectacles.

In the meantime, Catcher is one of two suppliers referenced by KGI Securities this week in a new report on an updated stainless steel frame in next year’s iPhone updates. Maybe the technology is aligning sooner than expected, but it still sounds like we’re in the early days of the Apple Glass rumor if it goes anywhere.

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Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.